Will the U.S. Finally Have a Legal Reckoning with Ammonium Nitrate?

The explosion in the port of Beirut earlier this month was caused by—according to Lebanese officials—ammonium nitrate, and serves as a reminder of the deadly power of this chemical when recklessly stored or when there is an absence of oversight of its use.

Indeed, the Lebanese disaster echoes similarly fatal explosions involving ammonium nitrate at chemical plants in industrial pockets of the United States. Moreover, it is a primary chemical component of the livestock manure and fertilizer blanketing ever-expanding farms flung across the nation that …

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Oil Prospecting in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Is it Worth It?

Earlier this week, the Trump administration finalized its plan to open up a portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil and gas development. This marks a significant change in protections for the Refuge, as protections have been afforded to this large stretch of wilderness for more than half a century. The Trump administration was drawn to this area of land based on a large coastal plain located in the Refuge, which is believed to contain significant portions of oil. Furthermore, oil production …

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Bona-Fide Improvement: Ohio Adds BFPP Defense to Hazardous Waste Liability

This summer, Ohio implemented a change in its hazardous waste law that will be welcomed news to purchasers of brownfields. The new law adds a bona-fide prospective purchaser (BFPP) affirmative defense that will make those who qualify for its protections “immune to liability” to the state under the state’s environmental laws. Additionally, the new defense applies retroactively to pending causes of action that started before the law’s effective date.

The concept of a BFPP defense is familiar to purchasers of commercial property, as a similar …

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Wave of Oil and Gas Bankruptcies Expected to Lead to Costly Cleanups

U.S. oil and gas companies have increasingly moved towards bankruptcy—particularly in recent months—amid a global price war and the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, reducing demand. It is possible that nearly 250 oil and gas companies may file for bankruptcy protection by the end of 2021. This market crisis may soon bring about, and be further compounded by, a costly environmental crisis involving abandoned hydraulic fracturing wells. 

Abandoned wells often leak gases, such as methane, that pollute and warm the planet. Preventing water contamination or …

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Supreme Court Limits Prohibition on Streamlined Pipeline Permitting Process

Last week, Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan issued an Order for the Supreme Court on a stay application, limiting a lower court decision that prohibited new pipeline projects from using Nationwide Permit 12 (NWP 12), a permit used for certain types of discharges in oil and gas infrastructure projects. The stay of the lower court decision does not apply to the Keystone XL pipeline project, which is the subject of a pending appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The stay …

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Dakota Access Pipeline Shut Down

On July 6, 2020, a federal district judge ordered the Dakota Access Pipeline to shut down. The judge vacated the easement allowing the pipeline to cross beneath Lake Oahe, which stands near lands held sacred by several Sioux tribes, until the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completes a full environmental impact statement (EIS) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Additionally, on July 7, 2020, a federal judge refused to put the decision to shut down the pipeline on hold pending appeal.

The Sioux tribes …

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How Many Have Seen Schrödinger’s Cat?: D.C. Circuit Strikes Down FERC’s Longstanding Use of Tolling Orders in Response to Rehearing Requests

In Allegheny Defense Project, et al. v. FERC (Allegheny), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, sitting en banc, ruled last week that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or Commission) could not delay reconsideration of its approval of gas infrastructure projects for the purpose of postponing judicial review. In essence, in a 10-1 decision, the court said FERC’s “tolling policy”—something used in every gas pipeline case (39 to be exact) of the last 12 years—violates the strictures of the …

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Does This Mean My Trucker Hat is Cool Again? CARB Enacts First Mandate for Implementation of Zero-Emission Trucks in the U.S.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) adopted a rule on June 25, 2020, setting a deadline of 2045 for all trucks sold in California to be zero-emission models. The rule is the first of its kind in the United States. Globally, the rule represents one of the most ambitious efforts to date to replace diesel trucks with battery-powered and other zero-emission vehicles.

“It is clear this is the first of its kind in the world,” said California Air Resources Board Chairwoman Mary Nichols. “It’s part …

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Outside of Colorado, the Navigable Waters Protection Rule Takes Effect

As previously discussed in the Environmental Law Monitor, the Trump Administration has taken action throughout 2020 to narrow the scope of which wetlands and waterways are protected under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The recently limited rule took effect on June 22, 2020, which in essence, opens the doors for developers anxious to get to work ahead of future legal action and the 2020 presidential election.

The EPA first unveiled its planned Navigable Waters Protection Rule in January 2020. The regulation, also known as …

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States Bring WOTUS Rule Back to Court

The state of California continued its crusade against the Trump Administration this month, filing a lawsuit against the U.S. EPA, challenging the agency’s replacement for the defunct 2015 Waters of the United States Rule (WOTUS). Sixteen other states joined the lawsuit, which was filed in the Northern District of California. The Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) was also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

The definition of “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) as used in the Clean Water Act has been disputed for …

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